Alden House Historic Site

John & Priscilla Images

John and Priscilla's Images


Before progressing any further, let's first of all assure you that the pictures shown here bear absolutely no resemblance, unless purely coincidental, to what John and Priscilla actually looked like. We simply do not know. Of course, those of us who are descendants are convinced that they were most certainly handsome and beautiful, respectively!  We DO believe that John was relatively tall for his time, perhaps about six feet.

Boughton & Burbank:
Selling the Pilgrims


The foremost artist of the Pilgrims was George H. Boughton (1833 - 1905). Boughton was born in England, but grew up in the United States. He returned to England in , and spent the rest of his life and career there. Reproductions of his paintings of scenes and characters from the Courtship of Miles Standish, such as the March of Myles Standish (1870), “Why Don’t You Speak For Yourself, John?” (188-), Priscilla and John Alden (1884) and Rose Standish (1891) were widely distributed. “Why Don’t You Speak For Yourself, John?” was even made into a popular drawing room sculpture by John Rogers (1829 – 1904), creator of the famous “Rogers’ Groups” parlor sculptures in 1885. Boughton also painted the famous Pilgrims Going to Church (1867, originally "The Early Puritans of New England Going to Church"), a scene he interpreted from a quote in W. H. Bartlett's The Pilgrim Fathers (London:1853, p. 237), The Landing of the Pilgrims and The Return of the Mayflower before 1870, after which he specialized in illustrations of Longfellow's Courtship.

Alfred S. Burbank (1932)

Boughton’s images became well-known through their publication on trade cards, postcards and souvenirs. The most prolific marketer of local pictures and souvenirs was Alfred S. Burbank (1856 – 1946) of Plymouth, Mass. Burbank opened his "Pilgrim Bookshop" in 1872 and commissioned Pilgrim souvenirs and Plymouth pictures until his retirement in 1932. No one was more indefatigable in presenting the story of the Pilgrims and its imagery to the American public through books, cards, figurines, dishes and other objects. The Boughton pictures were among his most popular images.

Other artists (primarily illustrators) were also inspired by the Courtship, and numerous images of John and Priscilla appeared between 1880 and 1930, as can be seen below. Jean L. G. Ferris (1863-1930), who did many historic and patriotic paintings as well as illustrations, did several images of our Pilgrim couple (one of which we are using on our home page). Many of the artists are anonymous, unfortunately. For example, we did not know who composed the large engraving of John and Priscilla on the Plymouth shore that hangs in the Great Room of the Alden House until recently, when the artist was identified on Ebay (!)—it was an Alfred Fredericks (1889). If and when we identify any other of these works, we will add that information to this web page.

One interesting tendency to note is that certain images appear to a popular series (some were done in Philadelphia and some in New York) of photographic poses representing the Pilgrims and other historical subjects, done around 1900. Some of these were apparently tableaux and others, scenes from the stage.




The image to the left is George H. Boughton's "Priscilla and John Alden", ca. 1884.

The one to the right is his "Why Don't You Speak For Yourself, John?", also from the 1880s.



In "The Return of the Mayflower" (ca. 1871), Boughton has the Aldens watching the departure of the ship (on the horizon to the right) from apparently the vantage point of Plymouth Beach.



In "Priscilla" (1879), Boughton has our Pilgrim maiden striding purposefully through the 1621 snow just beyond the Plymouth village.

J.L.G. Ferris painted an number of Pilgrims scenes in his his "American History" series, which ran from Columbus to the early 20th century. He also did magazine illustrations and cards such as this 1907 example of our famous couple (with dog and grouse).



We include here George Boughton's most famous Pilgrim painting, originally entitled "New England Puritans Going to Church" (1868). His "Priscilla and John Alden" appears to be an associated image, a detail from the same event.

    mcgloughlan1 These two large electro-gravure prints were published in 1903 by McLoughlin Bros. of New York. The artist is unknown. The one to the left ("John and Priscilla Married") is derived from Boughton's picture, as the couple have now resumed their walk in the snowy woods to church. The image to the right also depicts them as watching the departing Mayflower. mcloughlan2


Alfred Fredericks painted the "Departure" scene (1889) to the left based on Boughton's earlier version, showing the couple a moment later, when John has put on his hat and Priscilla has turned dolefully towards him. The McLoughlin image above is obviously also derivative.

The sentimental postcard was drawn by prolific card illustrator, Ellen H. Clapsaddle (1863-1934), who also did many other Thanksgiving cards.

    merrill Most of the other many representations of John and Priscilla were published as illustrations by noted artists of Longfellow's Courtship, and can be identified from the books in which they originally appeared. The first illustrated editions appeared in 1859. Here we show three examples, by Frank T. Merrill (1888) left, N. C. Wyeth (1920) right, and H. C. Christy (1903) below. wyeth
Another class of Alden images, popular at the turn of the 20th century, feature live people in fanciful costume in plays, tableaux and set shots (Ullman Mfg. Co. 1899, right), most of which are now unidentifiable.
Our couple were also represented in sculpture, such as this well-known "Why Don't You Speak For Yourself, John?" by John Rogers (1885) or in minature by Sebastian Figures, and as dolls, bookends and similar formats.